A Muslima's Guide To Istikhara
Many times we are told by pious family and friends to pray istikhara (the prayer of guidance) for the decisions we face in life. However, we are not told the step-by-step instructions of how to perform istikhara.
I used to think istikhara was a prayer I make only for major decisions in my life or if I could not make up my mind about something paramount. I was not familiar with the actual essence of this powerful prayer, nor its amazing benefit to my daily conflicts.
I also did not realize that this prayer made me put my trust in Allah SWT entirely. I was asking Him to take over my affairs and guide me to a decision that is best for me and not necessarily what I want for me.
It's sad to say, many of us were not taught to implement istikhara into our life from a young age, either by our parents or Islamic instituition. We may have not been guided towards the proper manner of performing it - which is surprisingly quite straightforward and easy.
When I educated myself about istikhara, I regretted not using it more often and for most of my decisions in life. I could have been guided by the Best of Protectors - Allah SWT. Who can guide us better than the One who Created us!
What is Istikhara?
Istikhara is a nafl prayer for seeking guidance from Allah SWT regarding ALL matters in one's life. It is highly recommended in Islam, and our Prophet PBUH taught his companions to make istikhara regarding ALL of their affairs, particularly in significant decisions.
It is seeking the right or the good thing for yourself to make the best choice possible. It is understanding that we don't know everything, nor do we know all the facts about the choices we have, so we suspend our judgment and leave the matter to our Lord.
We put our absolute trust in Him, and in this way, we direct ourselves to seek the best answer possible for our worldly and religious life, often misunderstood by our limited intellect. The istikhara prayer may be made for a particular matter or a general matter in hopes of seeking all that is best.
Some scholars recommend performing a general istikhara prayer for all that is good every day - ideally at the time of the duha prayer (after sunrise). After that, one should be pleased with what Allah chooses for you and not seek to follow your whims after the answer to your istikhara becomes apparent.
Misconceptions About Istikhara
1. Istikhara is only a prayer for marriage
Some people believe that istikhara is solely for the time when you intend to marry someone, but istikhara is for seeking guidance in ALL matters of life.
2. Istikhara is only performed by pious people
Some people believe that as a sinner, they have to get someone pious to make istikhara for them, but istikhara can be performed irrespective of your state of piety.
3. Istikhara is only answered in a dream
Some people believe that your answers from istikhara come in the form of dreams or seeing green or white. Your answers from istikhara will simply be in a form of guidance from Allah SWT towards that which is best for you.
4. Istikhara is only for really big things
Some people believe that istikhara can only be carried out for major decisions in life like deciding on a spouse, buying a house, having a child etc., but istikhara can be made for a particular matter, a general question, or even for good every day.
5. Istikhara can only be performed when you pray
Some people believe that you can only perform istikhara in a state of wudu or after a salah, but if it is not possible to perform the istikhara prayer, like as a traveler or on your menstruation, you can simply read the istikhara dua on its own.
How to Perform Istikhara
The istikhara prayer is a very simple prayer of seeking guidance. You will be rewarded for completing it and receive Divine assistance towards the best decision for you to achieve greater success compared to deciding for yourself.
Pray two sunnah rakats at any time that is not disliked.
If you are short of time, you can combine your istikhara prayer with another sunnah prayer.
After your istikhara prayer, recite the dua of istikhara
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي
Allâhumma inni astakhiruka bi ilmika wa astaqdiruka biqudratika wa as’aluka min fadlikal-azimi, fa innaka taqdiru walâ aqdiru wa ta’lamu walâ a’lamu wa anta allamul ghuyubi. Allâhumma in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra khayrun li fi dini wa ma-ashi wa aqibati amri faqdir-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fihi wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra sharrun li fi dini wa maâshi wa aqibati amri fasrifhu anni wasrifni anhu waqdir liyal-khayra haythu kâna thumma ardini.
O Allah, verily I seek the better [of either choice] from You, by Your knowledge, and I seek ability from You, by Your power, and I ask You from Your immense bounty. For indeed You have power, and I am powerless; You have knowledge and I know not; You are the Knower of the unseen realms. O Allah, if You know that this matter is good for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then decree it for me, facilitate it for me, and grant me blessing in it. And if You know that this matter is bad for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then turn it away from me and me from it; and decree for me better than it, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.
You can say the dua of Istikhara if you cannot pray istikhara or you are in a state of menses.
It is best to recite istikhara before sleeping, though not necessary.
Like other dua, it is recommended to face the qibla.
It is recommended to open the dua of istikhara with praising Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet (PBUH), as well as closing off in this manner.
After that do not hasten in seeking the answer to your istikhara. The Prophet PBUH said:
“Your prayers are answered, unless you hasten, saying, ‘I prayed, but no answer came’.”
How Do You Get Your Answer from Istikhara?
Imam al-Nawawi mentioned that before the istikhara prayer, you should seek advice from those whom you are confident in their knowledge, wisdom, and concern for you.
Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentioned that you should distance yourself from the desires of your egotistic inclinations.
Shaykh Nuh Keller suggests that the more you pray istikhara, the clearer your answer will be and that you should pray it for all matters, even things you would not think of praying istikhara for.
You must avoid your judgment or inclination about the particular case, and wait for Allah SWT to show you a sign or to make things happen in a way that indicates what you must do.
If you are not clear about the result of the istikhara, it is recommended to repeat istikhara up to 7 times if necessary, and on separate occasions. Your answer may not necessarily come to you in the form of a dream or even as a 'feeling.'
Rather, the solution from your istikhara prayer will be a guidance from Allah SWT towards that which is khayr or best for you.
To perform istikhara with the proper manners, you will need to suspend your wants and desires because your intention is purely to consign the matter to your Lord.
Thereafter, Allah SWT will make the events unfold in the direction that is the best for your worldly and your afterlife affairs inshallah.
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For more information and references about istikhara, read more at Seekers Hub.